View all Articles
Commentary By Steven Malanga

Giants-NYC: Feud Over

Cities New York City

Mayor Bloomberg assures us that he's not a candidate for anything right now, so we can assume that his enthusiastic embrace of the Super Bowl champion Giants in a parade along the "Canyon of Heroes" yesterday meant that New York's political class is finally making peace with the team that decamped to Jersey to play its games more than 30 years ago.

It's about time—local Giants fans made this same peace long ago.

Never quite as popular as the Yankees, the Giants were nonetheless among Gotham's sports royalty when they played at Yankee Stadium (and before that the Polo Grounds). Then they went to the Yale Bowl in 1973, and Shea Stadium in 1975, before moving to the Meadowlands in 1976.

In the era before widespread tailgating, when pro football was still mostly an urban experience, I remember attending Giant games at Yankee Stadium with my father and being jammed into the subways for the trip home, a young kid borne aloft by the crowds that packed the stadium for pro football on autumn Sundays.

In the days before the Super Bowl (which is played on a neutral field), New York even hosted a series of memorable NFL championship games—none more so than the 1958 "sudden death" game between the Giants and Colts, still called by many the greatest professional football game ever.

My own vague memories of the last NFL Championship game in New York, a 16-7 loss at Yankee Stadium to the Packers on Dec. 30, 1962, are mainly of being bitterly cold and bitterly disappointed.

When the Giants announced nine years later that they were heading to the Meadowlands and a stadium built specifically for football, the city's press and politicians angrily denounced them. Then-Mayor John Lindsay called the team "selfish, callow and ungrateful" and even threatened to petition Congress to revoke professional football's partial exemption from anti-trust laws.

What really worried Lindsay was that the Jets, Mets and, worst of all, the Yankees, might all join the Giants in the Meadowlands (the Jets eventually did)—fears that prompted the city to buy and refurbish Yankee Stadium.

Time has shown that the Giants' owners, the Mara family, probably made a wise move. Major League Baseball, whose teams have rushed to build small stadiums reminiscent of Ebbets Field, has retained a distinctly urban feel, but pro football has become America's biggest spectacle—with games turning into an all-day affair where fans tailgate and teams set up what amounts to mini-amusement parks outside their stadiums.

That's one reason why other teams have joined the Giants in their search for more elbow space. The Dallas Cowboys actually play in Irving, Texas (and will soon move to Arlington); the Washington Redskins play in Landover, Md. A few of us even recall when the team that the Giants beat Sunday, the Patriots, played their games in Fenway Park, home of the hated Red Sox, before seeking roomier accommodations in Foxboro, Mass.

Still, the bitterness over the Giants move lingered for years. When the team won its first Super Bowl in January 1987, New York City refused to host a celebration. (The Meadowlands hosted it instead.) When the Giants played the Buffalo Bills in the 1991 Super Bowl, then-Gov. Mario Cuomo declared that he was rooting for the team that played its home games in New York state—the Bills.

The Giants, meanwhile, responded to the sticky situation of residing in New Jersey but being called a New York team by removing the NY from their helmets and replacing it with GIANTS—though today the NY is back.

Mayor Bloomberg wisely decided that it was time to put all of this behind. Perhaps he was influenced by the fact that his own efforts to lure back the Jets by building a gleaming new stadium on the West Side of Manhattan were opposed, polls showed, by many New Yorkers, including many sports fans, who didn't seem to want the team back at huge cost to the taxpayer.

Until yesterday, New York City had never recognized the Giants in with a parade, despite their long history and many championships in Gotham.

Mayor Bloomberg figured out that it was time to make up for that oversight. Judging by yesterday's crowds, it was a wildly popular decision.

Steven Malanga is a senior editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal.

This piece originally appeared in New York Post

This piece originally appeared in New York Post